Key Skills for a Successful Greenhouse

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    Sep 09, 2013
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Key Skills for a Successful Greenhouse Photo by Freyaw Yatt

I have always enjoyed having a greenhouse.  In all seasons and in all times of the year, a well-kept greenhouse offers a place filled natural beauty as a part of our own home.  It is a quiet place to go to, away from the TV and other household electronics, to enjoy a broad range of some of nature’s finest esthetic wonders.  Growing lively, luscious greenery also affords one a sense of accomplishment.  Having successfully taken care of some of nature’s most delicate plants, and watching them grow to maturity is a truly satisfying experience.  As well, New Zealand has such a wide variety of indigenous plants; it is a lot of fun to learn about what we have.  For choosing among the many different types of plants for your glasshouse, NZ doesn’t make it easy!

Reaching this point of enjoyment with a greenhouse also requires some dedication and commitment.  Even a little like having pets in the house, there is a restrictiveness to the hobby, having to ensure that the plants are taken care of during summer holidays, making sure they have the right nutrients and amount of water, while taking care of little details like removing excess foliage and weeds, all of which requires detailed attention being given to each and every plant.  For some hobbyists, this is no simple task.  A full home greenhouse can easily have a couple hundred plants.  Dedicated hobbyists would have many more.  To be sure, it is a hobby which requires a keen connection with nature.  For those who choose to cultivate this connection with nature, literally, the experience is simply divine.

While not anybody can simply pick up the hobby of horticulture, with attention to detail and a willingness to learn, the right skill set can be learned, no matter how much one would think that he or she lacks the requisite “green thumb.”  Above all, however, one must have patience, not only with oneself during the learning process, but with the plants themselves.  While vines can grow a centimeter per day under the right conditions, other plants take much longer.  The patience aspect itself is highly therapeutic.  While the hustle and bustle of life moves on in the world outside, there is always a sanctuary of calmness and serenity to which you can return. 

Some of the more technical aspects of cultivating plants within a glasshouse include understanding the right balance between heat, water, nutrients, and care that your plants require.  Here is a brief overview of the key skills that you will need to learn for a successful home greenhouse:

• Controlling temperature:  Most importantly, extreme temperatures and sudden changes are to be avoided.  The goal is not to have a constant temperature year-round, but to protect the area from extremes, which means not higher than 35C during the daytime.  When temperatures get high, it is necessary to ventilate, or apply shading over the glass.

• Air circulation:  remember that plants require carbon dioxide for photosynthesis; therefore too much oxygen in a greenhouse can actually slow their growth.  For this reason, even if the temperature control is compromised for a short time, a fresh whiff of carbon dioxide does your plans well.

• Humidity:  Contrary to what many people think, greater humidity is not necessarily better for plants.  The target humidity level is 70% to 80% (although this range can vary, depending on the type of plants you’re growing). 

• Soil:  Generally, greenhouse soil is lighter than outside gardens.  You’ll want your soil mixture to easily drain excess water, with a bit of acidic pH level.  This can be tested with testing kits, usually available at flower shops.

Finally, there is the construction of the glasshouse itself, which is all about controlling the lighting.  Again, it is worth having a thought in advance about what types of plants you want to grow.  Factors such as UVB and light transmission levels can affect the well-being of your plants.  One of the most important construction aspects to consider is the rubber glazing strips and frame construction.  Choosing the right materials which can withstand UV light while reducing rattling sounds and other inconveniences can help to lengthen the life of your investment while requiring as little infrastructure maintenance as possible.  A well-built greenhouse should have a twenty-year warranty, so be sure to compare manufacturers on these points. 

Mastering these points can take some time.  It is even sad for me to say that I have lost many plants through the years due to my own mistakes and improper care.  And yes, we do grow attached to our plants.  All the more motivation to take care and ensure the technical aspects of their care are known and understood.  The farther away a plant is removed from its indigenous setting requires that the grower be that much more knowledgeable about its care and maintenance.  For sure, nearly anybody can simply grow grass (and I have seen some beautiful arrangements out of the most common of varieties), but when the challenge of growing an even broader range of diverse species catches on, then to me, that’s where the real fun begins.

Author's Profile

The Author is an expert in the field of glasshouse nz product from Pacific Glass International Ltd in NZ and Australia.

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